You brought a towel to the beach and you're getting weird looks. Or maybe people are giving you the stink-eye because you aren't naked. If you had researched beach etiquette before studying abroad, these awkward situations could have been avoided.
When traveling abroad, blending in on the beach is just as important as blending in on the streets. Be sure to research proper beach etiquette before heading to international sandy shores. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before your trip:
What Should I Wear?
If you're studying abroad in a country known for its beaches, you may want to look up what is commonly worn so you can blend in with locals. In Brazil, guys without speedos look out of place. People with towels and cover-ups may look strange in Brazil as well. Brazilians stroll onto the beach in their swimming suits and lie down on sarongs. There's no need for a towel when air drying is just as effective. Not only should you know what to wear on the beach, but you should also know what's acceptable to wear in stores and restaurants near the beach. In many countries, especially through Europe, walking around a beach town in beach wear is considered rude.
What's Up with Nude Beaches?
Nude beaches have their own etiquette. Asking for permission before taking pictures,not staring and not getting frisky with others are a few rules to follow. But before stripping down, make sure you're actually at a nude beach. Usually beaches that allow nudity are secluded, so if you're at a crowded beach it would be safer to remain clothed. Nude beaches are often sectioned off with large rocks, and many times they have specific sections for families and couples. Keep in mind that these beaches may not be nude every day. For example, in Greece many of the nude beaches become clothed beaches on the weekends. If you do go to a nude beach during nudity hours, wearing a swimming suit is considered rude. Nude beach-goers in countries such as Greece and Australia have a "strip down or get out" mentality. Clothing optional beaches may be a good choice if you're thinking about losing the swim-wear but aren't quite sure.
Should I Bring Electronics?
Taking an mp3 player to the beach may seem like a good way to relax, but make sure you have a friend who will watch it when you go for a dip. In Brazil, people are discouraged from bringing electronics to beaches in order to minimize noise and theft. Think about where you are and how valuable your electronics are before taking them with you to the beach. In many countries, unwatched items will be taken. Aside from theft, electronics at the beach can be annoying to other sun-bathers. Beaches are great for napping, and people trying to snooze don't want to hear half of a cell phone conversation or blaring music.
Is Tobacco or Alcohol Okay?
Almost all beaches allow tobacco, but that doesn't mean that everyone is thrilled to inhale it. Many European beach-goers are okay with smoking, but people in countries such as Australia and the United States may not like it. If you're smoking on a beach, be sure to go upwind of others who may not be fond of tobacco. Similarly, if you aren't into smoking but are on a tobacco-filled beach, don't cough on purpose or make loud, disapproving comments. Instead respect the culture and roll with it. Alcohol is another guilty beach pleasure that is not always allowed on beaches. Do research on whether or not drinking on the beach is acceptable before hauling a beer-filled cooler to the shore. Also keep an eye out for signs prohibiting alcohol.
How Can I Be Less Obnoxious?
While beach etiquette varies by country, some rules are universal. Be careful when brushing sand off of your towel or clothes; no one enjoys sand in their eyes. Similarly, don't wear flip flops on the beach unless you're okay with flinging sand everywhere. Music should be kept at an appropriate volume, and so should your voice. Make sure you leave adequate space between you and fellow beachers when setting up camp for the day. Pick up your garbage, don't feed the seagulls... If you've ever been to a beach or public setting, these rules should be obvious. Keep them in mind while abroad and have fun!
What is your biggest beach pet peeve?